By this point, it is only a matter of time before the Celtics win their 17th title in team history, their first in 22 years. Realistically, the Lakers can at best only hope to extend the series for one more game tonight, two if they are really playing out of their mind. That they can extend the series to the full 7 games seems by now very improbable.
But, that is the objective basketball fan in me that is saying the above. The Lakers fans in me unapologetically says LAKERS IN SEVEN!!!!
Okay, now that my denial mode is over, let’s talk about how the 2008 Lakers are really the 2007 Patriots. For starters, both are staggering offensive teams who can score at will due to the combination of a superior talent (Kobe Bryant and Tom Brady playing at career peak levels), surrounded by a supporting offensive unity (the Lakers front court combo of Odom and Gasol, and Pats receiving corps), that on most nights can simply outscore their opponents while playing defense that is just good enough.
Going into their respective post-seasons, both are picked as champion favorites due to their seemingly-unstoppable offense. And up until the championship round, the predictions seem warranted, as both the Lakers and the Patriots outscored their opponents by healthy margins. But in the championship round, both lost (or will lose) because they have met a superior defensive team.
In the 2007 Patriot’s case, it was the Giants’ tough front line that repeatedly bludgeoned both Tom Brady and his receiving corps; in the 2008 Lakers’ case, it was the tenacious defense of the Celtics, led by Kevin Garnette and a much tougher front-court that killed the Lakers on rebounding. In both cases, the defense side of the teams crippled the offenses’ best options: Tom Brady and Kobe Bryant. This is not to say that both have sucked, but rather that they could not single-mindedly impose their will on the game as they could in the games up to that point.
So as a Lakers fan, I can take some small consolation, though it is not much, in relishing the fact that an seemingly unbeatable Boston team was beat, and beat by the same kind of dominant defense that the Celtics are now putting on the Lakers. The fact that this is something I’m even mentioning should tell you how disappointed I am in this Lakers team.
Thank God the Lakers saved me some face by winning game 5 and not letting the Celtics take the trophy at Staples Center–that would have been horrible: to listen to trash talk while being surrounded by a bar full of Celtics fans. By the way, where in the hell did all these Celtics fans all of a sudden pop up? The last time I checked, DC isn’t Boston. Are these just Eastern Conference bandwagon fans, or do people outside LA really hate the Lakers that much? I’m guessing it’s the latter.
Regardless of their win, the Lakers did nothing in this game to address any of my concerns:
- They still do not play good defense consistently. There are stretches when they are just shutting people down, but at other times they are just standing around and watching Paul Pierce drive to the rim at will.
- Related to the first, the Lakers just can’t seem to keep a large lead. They nearly blew a 19 point lead this game, which isn’t as bad as blowing a 24 point lead in game 4.
- All of which points to the fact that Lakers just can’t play a dominant game for the entire 48 minutes, and this worries me more than anything else, because a championship team will do what is necessary to play a complete game of basketball. And so far, the Lakers have not played a single game where they completely dominated. On their two wins, they did barely enough to win, but that and no further. They are getting out-hustled on rebounds and second-chance points, and this kind of lackadaisical effort simply will not do on the road.
If the Lakers want to make history, they will absolutely have to play with the kind of effort which they have not been showing the last five games. They need to come with a killer mentality and dominate the entire game, not just the first half. And for fuck’s sake, please put either Lamar Odom or Kobe on Paul Pierce, because neither Radmonivic or Luke Walton can guard him for beans.